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Australia Sells Blue Whale Habitat for Oil Profits

Shell oil is set to drill in critical whale habitats with the blessing of the Australian government, despite the contradiction it presents to the nationís commitment to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC Act). The administrationís perspective is that it is a measure of cost recovery for the programís existence, rendering the functionality of the act inert. The plan for cost recovery treats endangered whales as though they are owned commodities to be bartered off for economic gains rather than a species in need of protection from extinction.

The Australian governmentís Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities that regulates the act is directly quoted as stating on the departmentís website, ďAustralia has become a world leader in the protection and conservation of whales since the end of Australia's whaling industry in 1978. The protection of these species at regional, national and international levels is a priority for the Australian Government.Ē The department goes on to say that despite Australiaís efforts, human interference continues to threaten the species. How is the government afforded the latitude to make such a statement and intonate that further damage to the whales is out of their control? The government is responsible for allowing Shell to drill for oil in habitats critical to the endangered Blue Whale.

Bids for drilling rights off the coast of Portland, Victoria closed on April 11, 2012 with several more potential drilling areas off the Bonney Coast of South Australia to be auctioned off. The Bonney Coast is considered a Blue Whale aggregation site. This region provides an upwelling of nutrient-rich cool water and is the most prominent whale feeding ground in southeast Australia. One spill in this area would contaminate the whole of the aquatic food chain from plankton life forms to cetaceans.

Blue Whales make the Bonney region their home throughout summer and autumn after their breeding cycle has ended. They have naturally selected this area because of the steady southeast winds that churn the water bringing with it an abundant food source of krill. This allows pregnant whales to provide food stores for their gestating calves and gives the young the opportunity to get stronger from the ease of feeding.

Australia is surrounded by 22,804 miles (36,700km) of coastline, which is being systematically destroyed one drilling platform at a time. It is nonsensical for the government to justify destroying these habitats to fund the protection of endangered species programs. The taxpayers pay in billions for these programs in the good faith that they are actually protecting species from extinction. The reality of the picture is more inline with the government using the EPBC Act as a means of extortion to justify being paid higher premiums from oil moguls, like Shell.

The Australian Institute of Petroleum plays down the impact the industry has on animal and ecological stability and champions the industry's objectives as environmentally friendly. The oil trade seems to want people to believe that water and water related catastrophes exist in a vacuum. The institute boasts that not all drilling fluids pumped into the water for exploration are oil-based. This statement is somehow supposed to mitigate the environmental impacts the industry is having on whaling habitats even before a drilling platform is active.

The protection of animals and their habitats should not be treated as window dressing to placate the masses. Humans are responsible for placing these animals on the brink of extinction. It is humankindís responsibility to course correct their mistakes and cease further exploitation of creatures that are vital to maintaining a vibrant ecosystem.

For those interested, sign the Protect Endangered Water Habitats from Oil Exploits Initiative.

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